The effects of concurrent cannabis use among ecstasy users: neuroprotective or neurotoxic?

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Abstract

The research evidence regarding the potential effects of ecstasy suggests that it may be neurotoxic and that its use is associated with cognitive impairment. In recent years evidence has emerged suggesting that cannabinoids, the active ingredients in cannabis, can be neuroprotective under certain conditions. Given that many ecstasy users also consume cannabis at the same time, the possibility emerges that these individuals might be less susceptible to ecstasy-related impairment. The present paper reanalyses the data from a number of previous studies, contrasting the performance of those individuals who generally consume cannabis and ecstasy at the same time with those who generally consume ecstasy on its own. The two ecstasy-using groups are compared with non-ecstasy users on a range of measures including processing speed, random letter generation, verbal and visuo-spatial working memory span, reasoning and associative learning. The two ecstasy user groups did not differ significantly from each other on any of the measures. Both user groups were significantly worse than non-ecstasy users on measures of associative learning, verbal and visuo-spatial working memory and reasoning. The results suggest that consuming cannabis at the same time as ecstasy does not reduce the likelihood of cognitive impairment. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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